Indian lawmakers have formally said their goodbyes to the British-era parliament building, marking a significant transition to a new facility situated adjacent to it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described this momentous occasion as a "historic day."
The inauguration of the new parliament building took place in May as part of an ambitious redevelopment project known as the Central Vista complex, located in New Delhi. This move was met with protests from opposition parties, who had advocated for India's president to perform the inauguration instead.
“Today India has awakened with a new consciousness,” PM Modi stated in the central hall of the old parliament building before leading fellow legislators on foot to the new complex.
Built by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker before India’s 1947 independence, the old parliament building is now set to become a museum. Lawmakers have moved to a new $120 million triangular-shaped complex as part of a $2.8 billion redevelopment of British-era offices in New Delhi. The move faced opposition from major parties, uniting against Modi's party.
“Today is an occasion to recollect and reminisce the parliamentary journey of 75 years of India before the proceedings are shifted to the newly inaugurated building,” Modi told a special session of parliament.
In his speech, he inaugurated a five-day special session convened by the government, although the specific bills to be discussed were not immediately confirmed. Ordinarily, Indian lawmakers meet thrice a year for budget, monsoon, and winter sessions. Opposition lawmakers criticized the government for not disclosing its parliamentary agenda and accused it of bypassing crucial debates.
Recently, a "tentative list" of four bills, including a controversial one to change the appointment process for India's chief election commissioner, was released by the government.
The move to the new parliament coincided with the start of Ganesh Chaturthi, a festival celebrating Bhagwan Ganesha.
During the inaugural session in the new facility, India's lower house introduced a bill proposing a 33 percent quota for female representation among legislators. If passed, this law would significantly increase the number of women in parliament. Government figures showed that only 104 out of 788 MPs were women after the last national election, accounting for slightly over 13 percent.
Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal tabled the Women's Reservation Bill, aiming to reserve 33% of Lok Sabha and state legislative assembly seats for women. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla renamed the old Parliament building to 'Samvidhan Sadan,' while the new Parliament building is named 'Parliament House of India' in English and ‘Bharat Ka Sansad Bhavan' in Hindi.
Prime Minister Modi addressed MPs in the old Parliament building, urging them to commit to making India a developed nation by 2047. He later spoke in the new Parliament, hailing it as a symbol of parliamentary democracy in India.
On the Women's Reservation Bill, Congress MP KC Venugopal said, "We only introduced and passed it in Rajya Sabha...It is well and good now the government is coming for a bill. But when we saw the bill there is something that has to be done more. We think that the reservation of SC/ST under the reservation of women is okay. But other OBC community people are also waiting for the reservation...This move is good, we are not criticizing it..."
Image source: ANI